University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


We report initial findings from a study of the Northern Cities Shift (NCS) in Lansing, Michigan. As in other urban centers recently examined, the NCS appears to be undergoing re-evaluation and attrition. However, whereas others have found the NCS to be simply undergoing “exact reversals” of its vowel movements (Driscoll and Lape 2014), in Lansing we find two additional processes in addition to reversal: reorganization and continuation. We observe reversal of the fronting of LOT, reorganization of TRAP from a raised to a continuous or nasal system, and continuation of the lowering of DRESS. Findings are derived from a sample of 50 speakers born 1908 to 1996, combining new sociolinguistic interviews with oral histories recorded 1992–2006.



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